Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Zimmerman-Tyson Comparisons Fizzle

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Zimmerman-Tyson Comparisons Fizzle

Article excerpt

The infamous killing of a teenager in Sanford by a self- appointed neighborhood watchman has some local people making comparisons to some terrible events closer to home.

One emailer, who insisted his name not be revealed, suggested a strong parallel to an off-duty deputy's fatal 2010 shooting of a young man in Venice, a horrific climax to a late-night ding-dong- ditch prank.

The lack of charges against the deputy should have inspired just as much national response, the emailer seemed to think, as did the lack of charges in in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford. Maybe it would have gotten the same outside investigation if Venice's Tyler Spann had been black, the emailer said.

Maybe. But quite often, violent deaths of white people get far more coverage and public reaction than comparable cases in which the deceased are black. The exceptions -- like Martin's death in Sanford -- often involve loudly asked questions about whether racism was behind either the crime or the decision by police not to file charges. Or both.

Spann's death in Venice had no racial issues. Everyone involved was white. But is there more or less equal cause to suspect both investigations amounted to a whitewash?

Some of Spann's friends and supporters have long tried to claim his death was a violent crime committed by a deputy who was irate about a prankster banging on his family's door late at night. But I have never seen any basis for discrediting the deputy's report that Spann, after first cooperating with his arrest, suddenly tackled him and seemed bent on taking his gun away. And if so, the shooting was self-defense during a desperate struggle that could have been fatal if the deputy lost the fight.

But then, might Sanford police have legitimately reached the same conclusion about shooter George Zimmerman's claim that, after he followed and confronted an innocent teenager he had suspected was up to no good, the teenager attacked him, leading Zimmerman to use his legally concealed handgun to defend himself? …

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